Brodsworth Hall Welcomes Home Family Treasure

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Brodsworth Hall Welcomes Home Family Treasure

Brodsworth Hall Welcomes Home Family Treasure

Brodsworth Hall, in South Yorkshire, will welcome the return of a major painting on following conservation which has taken six months to complete. The double portrait of ‘Mrs Charles Thellusson with her son Charles’ of 1804 by Thomas Lawrence has been expertly cleaned and conserved and will be reunited with its nineteenth century giltwood frame, which is being conserved on site during the week of 3 April.

The little boy in the painting is Charles Robarts Thellusson (1797 – 1856). He is standing on the lap of his mother, Sabine Thellusson (née Robarts, 1775 – 1814), and was the eldest of her six children. The painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1804 by Thomas Lawrence, the foremost portrait painter of the day. It was only after Charles’ death in 1856 that the unusual will of his grandfather, the financier Peter Thellusson, was finally settled.

Peter Thellusson had stipulated that his property would only be inherited on the death of ‘the eldest male lineal descendants of my three sons then living’. The boy in the painting, Charles Robarts Thellusson, was the last grandson alive when Peter died in 1797, so his death finally triggered the inheritance. After years of legal wrangling, Charles Sabine Thellusson (1822-1885), the son of the boy in the painting, eventually inherited half of a much diminished but still significant fortune including the Brodsworth estate. He built the present Brodsworth Hall from 1861-3.

Brodsworth Hall Welcomes Home Family Treasure paintingBrodsworth Hall Painting Returns: “Visitors will be able to see first-hand the care and skill required to stabilise the flaking gilding”

While this famous will played a pivotal part in the story of the little boy in the painting and the creation of Brodsworth Hall, a more recent legacy has helped to fund the much needed conservation of the painting’s frame. Legacies are of now of great importance to English Heritage in its work to care for its properties and their collections since it became a charity independent of government in 2015. Conservator Mike Howden will be undertaking this delicate work on site at Brodsworth in front of visitors, where they will be able to see first-hand the care and skill required to stabilise the flaking gilding and crumbling plaster of the frame.

The painting itself has received treatment at the English Heritage paintings conservation studio. Treatment has addressed several issues:
• The existing varnish layer was discoloured, it was flattening the perspective in the painting as well as masking finer details.
• A previous restoration treatment had aged poorly leaving discoloured retouchings which disfigured elements of the painting.
• There were localised areas of fragile flaking paint.

Brodsworth Hall Painting Returns: “This significant piece is now in a stable condition”

The conservation of the painting has revealed new pentiments (an underlying image within a painting) which were previously unobserved. The conservators and curators at Brodsworth are investigating these marks to try to understand what they represent.

The frame and canvas will be reunited in the second week of April and then rehung on the wall of the Dining Room on Tuesday 11 April.

Caroline Rawson, Collections Conservation North adds: “We are phenomenally lucky to have this exceptional painting as part of the Brodsworth collection. It is returning to where it belongs, and we are delighted to see the depth of colour now evident following the conservation and to know this significant piece is now in a stable condition. The heavy gilded frame has an important role to play in how the painting is presented within the Dining Room, resting on a crimson velvet covered shelf.

Brodsworth Hall Welcomes Home Family Treasure painting Mrs Charles Thellusson with her son Charles’Brodsworth Hall Painting Returns: “Exudes an air of faded grandeur”

“To be able to reunite the conserved painting and frame in front of visitors is a rewarding moment and another example of how English Heritage is bringing behind the scenes conservation tasks into the public domain. The conservation of this well-loved painting is part of our on-going work to conserve and care for Brodsworth. Visitors will have noticed work underway, and we are making excellent progress welcoming, involving and informing our visitors throughout this major investment project.”

Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, five miles from Doncaster, was lived in by Charles Sabine Thellusson and his descendants for 120 years until it was given to English Heritage in 1990. Its interiors were ‘conserved as found’, as each generation had left their mark on the house, which now exudes an air of faded grandeur. English Heritage is currently undertaking some much needed conservation work to the fabric of the building. While some of the interiors have been protected the house remains fully open during the project and there is a wealth of information about the work and the opportunity to see conservators in action. Brodsworth Hall and Gardens opens daily for the summer season from 1 April.

images: Christopher Ison

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